Here we are, nine years after Superstorm Sandy pummeled Nassau County’s South and North Shores, still waiting for the federal and state governments to take meaningful action to harden our coastal infrastructure to withstand the likes of such a storm in the future.
For sure, strides have been made. The City of Long Beach has a new, much sturdier boardwalk, constructed of hardwood rather than pine. Smart move. It also has new dunes, with cord-grass plantings, to hold back the ocean. And here and there, small flood-mitigation projects have been undertaken in various communities.
We have yet to see the types of large-scale hardening projects that were promised in Sandy’s wake, however. Check valves, for example, were supposed to be installed on storm drains that let out into the bays in any number of communities, but they are yet to materialize. Check valves prevent the tide from flowing backward into storm drains and flooding streets.
During Sandy, backflow caused by the storm’s rush of seawater flooded hundreds of blocks nowhere near the bays. Our communities need check valves. Where are they? Our new governor, Kathy Hochul, needs to answer us on this one.
For that matter, where are the street-raising projects? Is there any word on a $300 million proposal by Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy to construct tidal floodgates across Jones Inlet? He first proposed the idea five years ago. So far we’ve had nothing but studies.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently released a draft report of its Nassau County Storm Risk Management Study, which suggests elevating more than 14,000 homes across the South Shore, at a cost of $3.8 billion, to mitigate the risk of flood damage during big storms, which are only expected to grow more powerful in the coming decades because of climate change.
Global warming not only heats up the atmosphere, but also increases sea surface temperatures. Warmer oceans provide greater energy for hurricanes to feed off. So, yes, we need to act, as the study asserts.
At what point, though, do we stop studying and start taking decisive action? The risk management study began in 2016. It is not expected to be complete until 2023 — more than a decade after Sandy ravaged our shorelines.
Beyond that, it’s unclear where the billions of dollars in funding to elevate thousands of homes would come from. This isn’t right. People deserve answers from our elected leaders.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach who heads the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and is running for county district attorney, recently expressed frustration with the lack of action on the storm-hardening front. Speaking of the Army Corps study, he said, “This study, while welcome, needs to become more than just paper and evolve into funding and real deliverables as soon as possible. This must go from concepts to actual, physical storm hardening — and that’s what matters as sea levels rise and storms intensify. Time is of the essence.”
We agree. So we are pleading with Hochul and local elected leaders across Nassau to take definitive action and push for more than studies. We need projects now, before it’s too late.